Sunday, 8 May 2016

Qualifirst Review: Chestnut Purée, Maple Sugar

Qualifirst Foods

Part 3, and final, part of my Qualifirst review is for their Chestnut Purée from France and Crystallized Maple Syrup from Quebec. I had never worked with either of these ingredients, but I love trying new foods and recipes so I was excited to test them out!

Qualifirst Maple Sugar and Chestnut Purée 

Of course I had to taste the little maple nuggets right away. I love maple syrup, and these tasted just like that, only in solid form. I tried them with walnuts on my morning oatmeal (delish!) but I wasn't exactly sure how to incorporate them into a recipe. I thought they would be great sprinkled on my GF shortbread cookies just before baking or used in a crumble for a coffee cake. In the end I decided to use them in my Maple Chestnut Cheesecake Mousse. They added a delicious sweet crunch and balanced out the earthiness of the chestnut purée. 

Maple sugar and walnuts on oatmeal 

Maple Chestnut Cheesecake Mousse

This is something I really haven't worked with or even tried before. I expected the purée to be kind of pumpkin like in consistency but it was way more dense. Almost the texture of smooth mashed potatoes that have been sitting in the fridge over night. The flavour is nutty and earthy, but not too intense. I found that it had to be whisked pretty vigorously to break it up and mix it with other ingredients. I used it to make a Maple Chestnut Cheesecake Mousse and it was amazing. The textures and flavours of chestnut were perfectly balanced by the creamy cream cheese, sweet maple and airy whipped cream. I only used 2/3 cup of the purée for a mousse that fed 6 people, so I need to think of some more ways to use it up! Pinterest, here I come. 

For the rest of my Qualifirst Review check out Part 1 and Part 2.

Disclaimer: Samples were provided to me free of charge. All opinions are my own. 

Maple Chestnut Cheesecake Mousse

This recipe is inspired by some of the gourmet ingredients I recieved from Qualifirst to review. Namely, the chestnut purée and the maple sugar; both ingredients I had never used before. I thought long and hard about what to make with these ingredients. I turned to google and pinterest, hoping to find something that was gluten free, delicious and didn't require too many difficult techniques. I found chocolate chestnut mousse, pavlova cake, chestnut cheesecake and more, great inspiration but not exactly what I was looking for. I finally realized I would need to create my own recipe. Combining aspects of many recipes I found, I came up with a Maple Chestnut Cheesecake Mousse.

I served it to my family for our Mother's Day dessert and I was surprised at how good it was! I've never had anything like it. It was so much better than the sum of its parts (I think chestnut tastes kinda weird on its own). It's no bake, comes together in 20 mins or less and best of all, naturally gluten free. Everyone adored it! I hope you do too.

*If you can only find sweetened chestnut purée, omit some of the sugar in the recipe. 

Makes 6 good sized servings

1 1/4 cup Heavy Cream 
     1/4 cup Icing Sugar 
     1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2/3 cup Chestnut Purée (unsweetened)
1/4 cup Maple Syrup (can sub any other natural liquid sweetener- honey, agave, etc)
1/4 cup Icing Sugar (can be omitted or reduced for less sweetness)
1 tsp Maple Extract
1 block Cream Cheese at (or close to) room temp
3 Tbsp Maple Sugar (can substitute other toppings - cookie crumble, skor bits, etc) 


*Use mixer or hand mixer.
Whip cream, 1/4 cup icing sugar and vanilla to stiff peaks. Set aside in a separate bowl. 
Beat chestnut purée for 20 seconds to break it up.
Add maple syrup, 1/4 cup icing sugar and extract and beat until smooth.
Add in cream cheese and beat until smooth (a couple minutes).
With a rubber spatula, carefully fold in all but roughly 1/2 cup whipped cream into chestnut mixture. 
Spoon mousse into ramekins or cups. Garnish with remaining whipped cream and sprinkle 1/2 Tbsp maple sugar on each serving.
Serve immediately or let chill in fridge for a couple hours before serving.  

Whip cream to stiff peaks

Beat chestnut purée 20 seconds

Add in syrup, maple extract and icing sugar, beat until smooth

Beat in room temp cream cheese until smooth

Fold in whipped cream (reserve 1/2 cup for garnish)

Gently fold until completely combined

Spoon into ramekins or cups and garnish

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Qualifirst Review: Sun-dried Blueberries, Sun-dried Cranberries,Lavender Honey

Qualifirst Products 

The second part of my Qualifirst review includes 2 more sun-dried fruits and a beautiful French lavender blossom honey. All of these ingredients are amazing on their own, so I didn't do anything too complex with them. I simply paired them with foods I thought would compliment their flavours.

Sun-dried Blueberries and Cranberries

Lavender Blossom Honey

I am not a honey connoisseur in any way. I usually buy the cheapest stuff and spread it on toast or use it to sweeten tea. I was amazed at how different this lavender honey tasted compared to my regular store brand. There is a distinct, yet delicate, floral after-note that imparts a kind of tea-party-in-the-garden sentiment. I felt that these flavours would be lost in any kind of baking, so I simply used it as a topping for my cornbread muffins. It would also be amazing on scones or any other tea party appropriate treat. I find myself going back over and over again for just one more taste of that charming flowery nectar.

Lavender Honey on GF Cornbread Muffins 

There is an amazing amount of flavour packed into these tiny nuggets. They are deeply sweet and bursting with blueberry flavour. I added them to a maple walnut granola and they provided the perfect compliment; sweet and chewy, nutty and crunchy. Of course they are also delicious eaten straight up. My 2 year old discovered them and now calls them bucket raisins. He is no longer interested in regular raisins. Haha!

Maple Walnut Granola with Sun-dried Blueberries 

These are not your every day craisins. They are whole and plump and tart. I baked them into my lemon poppyseed muffins, in place of craisins. It's almost tastes like I added sweet fresh cranberries, not dried. The burst of fruity flavour is a welcome addition to my afternoon coffee treat! 

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins with Sun-dried Cranberries 

Disclaimer: I was provided these samples free of charge. All opinions are my own. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Qualifirst Review: Cocoa Powder, Cocoa Nibs, Dried Cherries, HazlenutPaste

I'm really excited to be doing a review for the Canadian gourmet food company, Qualifirst! They provide ingredients to many professional chefs and carry a great selection of gourmet ingredients from around the world. Check out the Qualifirst website for more info.

I recieved sun-dried cherries, sun-dried blueberries, sun-dried cranberries, hazlenut paste, organic cocoa nibs, crystallized maple syrup, extra bold amber cocoa powder, chestnut purée and lavender blossom honey. Sounds amazing right? But way too much to handle in one post, so I will split it up into a few different posts. Many of these ingredients are new to my kitchen so it has been a bit of a learning opportunity for me too! I'm really excited to taste the lavender honey and maybe try my hand at a chestnut pavlova cake! 

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins with Cocoa Powder and Hazlenut Paste

I started by testing out the cocoa powder and hazlenut paste. I decided to use them both in my GF banana chocolate chip muffins. I added 3 Tbsp cocoa powder and 2 1/2 Tbsp hazlenut paste, hoping to create a kind of Nutella flavour. It turned out amazing! I've been having one with warm milk for a bedtime snack every night since I made them :D

I have never had the opportunity to use this Italian ingredient, and after doing a quick taste test, I considered eating the jar by the spoonful. It tastes just like the inside of those hedgehog chocolates, except not really sweet. Really, really good. I knew it would pair great with a chocolate flavour... and would probably be delicious spread over some GF toast. I think it would also make an amazing in a GF chocolate hazlenut biscotti. That is definitely on my to do list now. It's very rich and smooth, so a little goes a long way. I would love to get my hands on more of this stuff! 

As the name implies, it is a very rich, flavourful cocoa powder. The colour is a deep reddish-brown and the flavour is smooth, dark and bitter. A little went a long way in my banana chocolate chip muffins, and the dark colour and taste was amazing in Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites. Definitely a high quality cocoa powder. 

I created a new recipe to incorporate the cocoa powder, cocoa nibs, and sun-dried cherries. I've made energy bites before, but for some reason these Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites were disappearing in a fraction of the time. I used mini chocolate chips along with the cocoa nibs to balance out some of the bitterness. I have enough leftover ingredients to make this recipe again, and I will! 

Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites

I've had dried cherries in the past, but to my knowledge, never sun-dried cherries. They are so much better! I was expecting them to be sour and firm, but they were flavourful, soft and sweet. Another ingredient that I could eat as is. They would be great in trail mix, granola, or baked into scones or muffins. I used them in my Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites

Again, I've never worked with this ingredient in baking. I've tasted cocoa nibs in store bought products, but never purchased them on their own. I usually see them in granola bars or chocolate, so I tried to use them in a similar way (in the Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites). I only used a tablespoon because the flavour is intense and they are very crunchy. A little goes a long way, a truth I am repeatedly discovering in all of the gourmet Qualifirst ingredients. 
Cocoa nibs are made from cocoa beans that have been dried and roasted. They contain magnesium, fibre, iron and antioxidants - basically all the health benefits that are attributed to dark chocolate, and more. And as an added bonus, these ones are also organic!

I'm loving everything I've tried so far! My Qualifirst review will continue in another post :)

Disclaimer: The products were sent to me free of charge. All opinions are my own. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Dark Chocolate Cherry Energy Bites

I've recently discovered the joys of energy bites. I love these little things because they're super quick to make, and easy to eat! You can add in all different kinds of flavours. Use almond or cashew butter instead of peanut butter, replace chocolate chips with white chocolate, add in shredded coconut, different flavour extracts, etc.

This version highlights some of the gourmet ingredients I recieved from Qualifirst to review: cocoa nibs, dried cherries and cocoa powder (see my Qualifirst review). I used a combination of cocoa nibs and mini chocolate chips because I wanted some of the sweetness from the chocolate to balance out the rich, yet bitter, unsweetened cocoa nibs. If you don't have cocoa nibs you can use extra chocolate chips or omit them all together. 

My husband and son ate most of these before I could so I will have to make another batch soon! Maybe in a new flavour...

Makes 12 bites


1 cup Pitted Dates
1/4 cup Natural Peanut Butter (regular works too)
1/2 tsp Vanilla
1 Tbsp Cocoa Powder 
1 Tbsp Cocoa Nibs
1 Tbsp Mini Chocolate Chips
1/4 cup GF Quick Oats
2 Tbsp Dried Cherries 


If your dates are hard and dried out, you may need to soak them in water for 15 mins to soften them up.
Blend dates in a food processor until they form a dough like ball  (I use my mini kitchen aid processor)
Add peanut butter and vanilla and blend until well combined.
Add cocoa powder and blend until you have a dough like mixture. Add water by the 1/2 tsp if you need more moisture.
Dump your mixture into a bowl with cocoa nibs, chocolate chips, cherries and oats. 
Stir until well combined.
Form the balls.
Store in fridge or freezer.

Date paste, peanut butter and vanilla

Add cocoa powder and water if needed

Finished "dough"

Mix with oats and add ins


Form into balls and refrigerate or freeze

As my 2 year old says: "mmm dee-wish-iss!"